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Like it or not, we are the guinea pig generation for remote and hybrid working

City AM logo City AM 04/11/2021 Dominique Sivak
© Provided by City AM

We hear again and again a similar refrain: the pandemic accelerated societal shifts that were actually already in motion. Covid-19 is not the reason we shop online, but it certainly pushed people in that direction faster. Learning online has been on the up for a while now, but only in the last eighteen months has its popularity exploded.

This is also true for how, and where, we work. In certain management circles, the move to flexible working was seen as inevitable and desirable. But only since 2020 have businesses big and small been forced to grapple with the concept of remote staff. A few months since restrictions were lifted, the inescapable word on everyone’s lips is “hybrid”  and how this is working across multiple settings.

Initially hybrid was painted as pitting two opposing forces against each other: in-person versus remote. In reality, though, it’s less about compromise and more a broad description of running a company where people work both remotely and in the office, rather than one or the other.

It has, however, become a buzzword and a threat. Whether we like it or not, it’s the future. According to the ONS, 85 per cent of people want a hybrid approach. With ever building hiring challenges and greater competition for skilled employees than ever, the question is not whether to go hybrid, but how.

It’s not about ignoring the pitfalls of remote. Which do exist, despite some protestations from the converted. When specific teams are hybrid, problems can easily arise amongst collaborating staff spread between their homes, HQ, warehouses, client offsites, and supplier meetings.

Communication, of course, is key. Hybrid companies must be built on robust and consistent processes for sharing information. Prioritising the written word over verbal conversations is a good way to increase collective visibility on information, and to make sure items don’t fall through the cracks. Information silos between departments have always posed a problem for big organisations, but now they can occur within actual teams, simply because colleagues aren’t in the same room. Democratisation of, and easy access to, important information is essential.

To run effective hybrid teams, you need three key attributes: thoughtfulness, creativity, and transparency. Thoughtfulness in the sense of proactively shaping the culture around remote working, while mitigating any possible issues. Creativity, because there are lots of small things you can do to make hybrid work. Ultimately we are the guinea pig generation of flexible working, so why not experiment to see what helps?

In our teams, we have been trialing a policy where we subsidise remote workers meeting up with colleagues who live nearby. Coordinating a sales executive having a pint with a member of the product team who lives down the road, or a coffee between VP and intern from the same city, is a way to foster the relationships that some worry could get lost without office working. These people could have sat 10 metres away from each other in the office for five years and never had a single conversation.

Transparency is at the heart of our plans; listening to employers and their different needs can help make the evolving beast of hybrid work effective.

The post Like it or not, we are the guinea pig generation for remote and hybrid working appeared first on CityAM.

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